There are 25 optional subjects in the IAS test, alongside 26 optional subjects for literature. There are also a total of 51 optional subjects. Anthropology is an underrated subject for most IAS exam candidates.     But its success rate is relatively high compared to other options. It is about 11%. Anthropology is the study of human evolution, culture, diversity, biological and cultural aspects of humankind.

As a subject, it is mostly suited for candidates with a background in engineering or science. In addition, the subject is very interesting, and it can fetch you marks. However, Anthropology for UPSC  Exams focuses mostly on the Indian Tribes. Applicants, therefore, need to research the diversity of India.

Why should You Go for Anthropology?

  • The main and most important windfall is that questions are generally direct. They are not abstract and subjective, but rather objective. Well, a good understanding of the basic concept can give you a good score.
  • Through proper diagrams, tables, flowchart, and so on, we save our time and score easily. Answer writing is becoming less hectic.
  • It’s easy to take up this topic if you research with curiosity and concern. Your attention while studying would overweigh your performance.
  • The most important aspect is its relationship with other areas of study. It has an integrative link with a number of GS Paper I and II topics. Also, internal security challenges can be understood by the use of anthropology. Almost all of the Biotechnology is also covered.
  • The syllabus is reasonable. It’s not so long and abstract that it forces you to spend 6 to 8 months preparing and formulating. You can get it in about 4 months.

Also Read : UPSC Exam Pattern 2021: Stage and Paper-wise Marks Distribution in UPSC IAS Exams

Most Recommended Anthropology Books

There are not a lot of anthropology books available, and candidates can choose one or two books from the list provided. One book may suffice but applicants should refer to other books in order to gain knowledge on subjects that are not covered in the chosen book.

Here is the following list:

  • India Prehistory by D. K. Bhattacharya
  • Tribal India by Nadeem Hasnain
  • The Tribal Culture of India by LP Vidyarthi
  • Physical Anthropology by P. Nath
  • State, society, and tribes by Virginius Xaxa
  • Anthropology Theories by Makhan Jha
  • Indian Anthropology by Nadeem Hasnain

Anthropology Syllabus for Paper 1

Here is a list of significant topics that come under the Syllabus as well.

  • Meaning, scope & evolution of anthropology.
  • Human evolution and the creation of man
  • Cultural Evolution
  • Study of Family
  • Concept of kinship
  • Types of Marriage
  • Study of Religion
  • Concept of Society
  • Concepts of Ecological Anthropology
  • Concept of Human growth & Development
  • Forensic Anthropology.
  • Understanding Contemporary Society

Anthropology Syllabus Topics for Paper 2

  • Evolution of the Indian Culture and Civilization
  • Demographic profile of India
  • Emergence, growth, and development of anthropology in India
  • Aspects of Indian villages
  • Impact of Hinduism, Buddhism and other religion
  • Role of anthropology in tribal and rural development.
  • The exploitation of scheduled castes
  • Social change among the tribes during colonial and post-Independent India.
  • Study of tribal communities

To know more about the syllabus you can read: Anthropology Syllabus for UPSC

Anthropology Strategies to Ace the Exam

Applicants need to have a solid understanding of the subject, to begin with. Once you have that you can follow the tips mentioned below.

  • Practising diagram questions- There are a few diagram questions in anthropology exam that can be very scorable. You’re also supposed to try these questions before trying others. And you need to practise diagram questions thoroughly. They also have flowcharts. Generally, their answers are of a static, clear and factual type.
  • Case studies have an enormous role in optional anthropology in IAS examinations. They are easy to score, and they’re pretty fast. However, we need to be aware of the latest news and articles on these case studies. For example, you go through socio-political-economic topics relating to ethnic minorities from the Xaxa Committee.

Attempt Anthropology Previous Year Questions

It is very helpful to go through the previous year’s question papers as you will get an idea of what type of questions are expected from you and how they are marked. Find and go through the sample papers from all the past year. Attempting previous years’ question papers helps to revise themes. Solve these question papers right after you are done with the planning and preparation. Review your performance and work on the weak points. Many questions are repeated by moulding or rephrasing. Identify such questions, and you’ll be able to answer them quickly.

Self-assessment is an essential aspect of UPSC planning. You’ll get a view of your level of preparation once you solve anthropology question papers. You make mistakes and you learn from them. Analyze the error and redefine the plan. This will certainly help you do well in your tests.

Master the Answer Writing

A major and challenging job that arrives is all about answer writing. The solution to the task is an ongoing practice.   Some typical main body structures, such as introduction, justification, descriptions, names of scientists, or, more precisely, anthropologists, etc., should be integrated. Subheadings always enhance the quality of any answer. Your goal is to use specific examples and avoid unnecessary detail. Adding current affairs and case studies as examples will win you extra brownie points.


The hardest decision is to decide on an optional subject. If you still need help with choosing the optional subject then you may read this. Anthropology carries 500 marks from the total and this is a huge deal. After going through all the topics of anthropology, we would recognize that this subject is very significant. With proper guidance and conceptual clarity, you can do really well in this exam.

Also Read:  6 Best Optional Subject in UPSC

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Overview of UPSC Optional Subject Anthropology: Know the Syllabus & Important Topics
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Overview of UPSC Optional Subject Anthropology: Know the Syllabus & Important Topics
Looking for an optional subject for UPSC? Opt for Anthropology as your optional. It has on average 11% success rate. Find out the key topics & syllabus. Strategies listed as well.
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